‘Black students worse off than in the 1980s’
STATISTICIAN-General Dr Pali Lehohla, pictured, has said South Africa’s tertiary institutions must focus on supporting the black students entering them and that long-time failing students should be removed to “unblock the system”.
Lehohla said there should be more black people going to university each year, but instead of 200 000 there were only 47 000, and of those who did go, few succeeded.
This pointed to the high university dropout rate among black people, he said in his submissions to the Fees Commission sitting at the City of Tshwane Council Chambers in Centurion yesterday.
“Blacks do not succeed when they are at university. Back in the 1980s, blacks were succeeding but now they’re not.”
He said that in the 1980s, for every black person succeeding there were 1.2 white people succeeding. Now the ratio was one black person to six whites.
In his testimony, Lehohla said black South Africans were still living through the aftermath of the legacy of apartheid.
He said when Hendrik Verwoerd said it was no use teaching a black child mathematics when he could not use it in practice, and established the Bantu Education Act, it crippled black and coloured people, while white people and Indians were able to flourish; Indians because of their entrepreneurial excellence, which enabled them to take their children to school.
Another issue Lehohla raised was that there was not enough space for matriculants to enter university because there were people at university who did not graduate.
“Universities would be able to accommodate more students, but there are some students who are past their sell-by date and are constipating the system. The system needs to be unblocked.”
He also said the Department of Basic Education was underperforming and not sending as many matriculants to universities as it should.
Regarding tertiary education for all, Lehohla said: “There’s no free education, but certainly, depending on where the money comes from, where your tax goes and who pays, it should be possible.”
Overall, he said, every child had the right to education, but the sins of the past had created a legacy that had been difficult to break.
“What needs to be done is to rescue those who are yet to be born.”
The Fees Commission was established by President Jacob Zuma last January to look into the feasibility of providing free higher education.
This followed massive protests at universities across the country, sparked by the #FeesMustFall campaign, which called for free tertiary education.
The commission will sit again tomorrow, with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan expected to testify.